Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rivers of Light At Disney's Animal Kingdom: Review & Pics!

[plops down] Hoo!

Right, it's the day after John's surgery (which went well), and he's tied down, strapped up, and konked out on pain meds... so let's talk DISNEY.

Animal Kingdom, that is, and their new, long-awaited, much delayed night time water show, Rivers of Light.

The soft open was last Friday, and as luck would have it John and I were there anyway, enjoying our last cool day before ARMageddon. (The arm puns never stop here, folks.) Fast Passes for the show's seating were long gone, but we were told there were plenty of other vantage points around the water to stand.

Random Tree of Life shot, because pretty.

Sadly I only had my iPhone with me for photos, but that didn't stop us from camping out on a bridge across from the main seating for an hour to get a premo spot. Again, these will NOT be the best/clearest photos, but they do give a decent impression of just how stunning this show is.

Our vantage point while we waited for the show to start. Most of the floats entered the lake right under our bridge!

I have to say one of the best parts of Rivers of Light is the pre-show lighting. See those trees on the far bank, all lit with blues and purples? Those colors shifted slowly, with bright green fireflies in the canopy, and some incredible animal silhouettes projected running/flying across the whole bank. It was a delight to watch, and I think I entertained the crowd around me with all my oohing and ahhing.
 ("Look! NOW IT'S PINK! Ahhhh!")

There's no story to Rivers of Light, just a series of colorful water elements and floats, all focused on animals and nature. There are also two sailboats themed to fire and water (so orange and blue) which contain the show's only live performers.

Of course I couldn't zoom in enough with my phone, but here's a photo from All Ears showing my favorite part with the performers:

A single dancer moves in front of a spotlight aimed at the sail behind them, so their shadows dance with them. And it. Is. AWESOME. This photo doesn't do it justice. Keep reading for a little video snippet later.

(Fun Fact: There were some bumps during Soft Open, of course, and John tells me he watched one of the performers get drenched by an errant water jet. Boops.)

This laser lotus flower was one of the highlights; it looks incredible when combined with the water screens and jets.

Plus it changes colors!

Seriously, SO GOOD. In fact, one of my complaints is they don't have more laser effects like this.
(You can see both the Water and Fire boats on either side here.)

The five lotus floats provide a colorful water ballet, a mix between Illuminations and World of Color:

The water screens showed clips of animals, and there were some neat dynamics leaping from one screen to another. Still, I think the screens were used too often. With no story to pull you in, watching random animal clips can be boring, even if they ARE being played on giant sheets of water. 

They do make fabulous backdrops for other elements, though:

My favorite shot from the night:
It's like a dream.

The four "stained glass" animal floats were hard to capture from our vantage point, but I was surprised how little they contributed. Which isn't to say they aren't beautiful, just that they're only one small piece among many. Rivers of Light is a virtual kaleidoscope of pretty things, with lots going on and lots of places to look. This bodes very well for repeat viewings.

Here's an official Disney promo image of two of the animal floats, in case you haven't seen them:

You can just see the Owl float on the far left here, lit bright pink:
 Like everything else, the animal floats continuously change colors.

There are no fireworks in Rivers of Light, ostensibly to spare the park animals the trauma of explosions (though neighboring DHS' fireworks are easily visible and quite loud here). The lack of fireworks does rob the show of a certain drama and punch, particularly in the finale:

The finale felt weak, and since all the floats turned back on immediately afterward, at first we weren't sure it even WAS the finale. (I figured it was like Illuminations, which has a similar mini-finale before the Big One.)

I took several video snippets throughout the show, which my One-Armed Bandit very kindly pieced together for us during one of his conscious/lucid moments:

You may notice some oddly timed screams in there. That's because Everest - which is directly beside the water - was still running. I'm hoping in the future they stop the ride during the show. 0.o

Rivers of Light starts slow and serene, has a more upbeat mid section (which uses a lot of water screens, so I didn't film as much there), then ends with the feature song, We Are One. Which is a nice song, but I don't see myself humming it in the shower anytime soon. And again, there was no ending WOW, no big punch.

Don't let that deter you, though, because Rivers Of Light is visually spectacular, and it's impossible to take an ugly picture of it.

As an amateur photographer I am super excited about this show; I can't wait to go back with my Canon and a decent zoom lens. But even for you non-photogs, Rivers of Light is a visual feast, and well worth a watch.

Hope you guys enjoyed the eye candy!

I'll end with a nighttime shot of of the Tree of Life, just for symmetry's sake:

Oh yeah, and happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Here's hoping you're feelin' the love. MWAH.


  1. I am so excited about this show - thanks for sharing your pictures. I have a fast pass to see it in April!

    Glad to hear John is still doing okay on his recovery.

  2. We've got the Tusker House Dining Package booked for our trip in June. Which is one week after Pandora opens, heaven help us... I can't WAIT to see this live!!! Thanks SO MUCH for posting!!!

  3. It looks like a enjoyable show.

    I'm glad John is doing well after his surgery.


  4. That sounds like a different "We Are One" than from Lion King 2. Beautiful pictures. Can't wait to see it in person.

    1. I had to look that up, but yes, seems to be a completely different song!

  5. So beautiful!! Your video is gorgeous!!!!

  6. We Are One -- isn't that the song from Lion King 2?

  7. Such pretty lighting. I would probably annoy everyone around me oohing and awwing over everything. So glad you two were able to enjoy something so beautiful before John's surgery. Happy Valentine's day to the both of you too! Speedy recovery for John and patience for you.

  8. Looks very cool. It looked like there were shadow puppets projected on the water screens at one point -- any idea if that's done live?

  9. I think you'd enjoy a willow lantern festival if you can find one - if you haven't seen/heard of them they're lanterns made from paper over a willow frame and look a lot like the elephants in your pics. The organisers often have artists create some big impressive ones but then everyone can get involved making their own at community workshops (somewhat less impressive in my case). https://slaithwaitemoonraking.org/moonraking-2015/

  10. ::happy screeching:: Thank you for this post! I work for the company that made the floating lotus flowers (as a fabricator, I worked on the meh giant, flaming lotus for months & did a lot of the mechanical assembly on the smaller ones)) & have been super curious how the show turned out. Your photos are, as always, gorgeous & it's so fun visiting vicariously (I live in PA).

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. It looks really pretty! Hope to get outt here and catch it sometime soon.


Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>